NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

October 6, 2012

Council to act on union pay hikes

AMESBURY – The Amesbury City Council may be gearing up for a financial fight Tuesday as it discusses four collectively bargained contracts that stand to grant pay increases averaging two percent per year to the city’s union workers over the next three years.

The agreements, which were reached with union leaders representing the city’s police, firefighters, DPW workers and administrative workers, will run through June 30, 2015 if approved. In addition to the pay hikes, the agreements also include concessions including the elimination of the longevity bonus for public safety workers, as well as a restructuring of the city’s education incentive, that Mayor Thatcher Kezer argues will save the city money in the long run.

Over the summer, the city’s employees also agreed to significant changes in their health plans that Kezer said will save the city $371,406 this year. The new agreements, taken into conjunction with those health insurance savings, will result in a net savings of $251,006 for Amesbury this year, Kezer said.

Given that fact, Kezer is asking the City Council to appropriate $120,400 to fund the first year of the agreement. The council will discuss it Tuesday at 7 p.m. in City Hall.

“The employees have stepped up and delivered their end of the agreement,” Kezer told the councilors last week. “I now request this additional funding to meet our end of the agreement.”

In a posting on Facebook, District 3 councilor Donna McClure argued that the money needed to fund the agreement should come from within the existing budget, which was approved earlier this year and did not take prospective union pay increases into account, though it did factor in nonunion increases.

“I have suggested that, if it’s such a great contract, take the money from the existing budget,” McClure said. “They should be able to find it.”

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